Domaine Thierry Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin 2017
If you thought the ‘assemblage’ of the Mortet Bourgogne Rouge brought lots of different Pinot Noir strains to the cellar, get this: this Gevrey-Chambertin village is made from grapes from 20 different parcels of vines in AOC Gevrey-Chambertin! It would be hard to find a more representative example of Gevrey village’s famous diversity. Pure and open, intense blackberry and black currant, a touch of licorice. You’ll want to try it now, but keep it a few years more and you’ll be rewarded.
DOMAINE THIERRY MORTET
We first met Thierry Mortet at one of the early editions of the ‘Grands Jours de Bourgogne’ where the theme of the Gevrey-Chambertin tasting was the two distinct village appellation zones on either side of the mouth of the Combe Lavaux. Tasting at Thierry’s stand was a master class in the subject that is as clear today as it was twenty years ago.
Thierry Mortet took over his half of the family domain, Domaine Charles Mortet et Fils in 1992 with 4 hectares of vines. He now oversees 7.3 hectares (just under 17 acres) of production, 6 ha in red and the rest in white, for an annual production of 30-35000 bottles. When he officially converted his domain to organic agriculture in 2007, he was merely codifying practices that he had already been following for years out of respect for the environment and an understanding of the cultural significance of his work.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
COTES DE NUITS
Chambolle-Musigny is a tiny village, and is likely to remain so. Expansion would mean encroaching on some of the best vineyard land in the world. With two superb Grands Crus, Bonnes Mares (which links Chambolle to Morey-Saint-Denis), and Musigny, which overlooks the Clos de Vougeot, the village also has several prestigious premier cru, notably among them Les Amoureuses. Its AOC dates from September 1936, making it one of the first French vineyards to be designated.
Produced in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny, the appellation Chambolle-Musigny includes 24 premiers crus as well as two Grands Crus: Musigny and Bonnes Mares.
Chambolle-Musigny is Pinot Noir par excellence, and is often regarded as the most elegant wine of the Côte de Nuits. Its intensity is subtle. It tends to be bright ruby and may darken a little over time. Its violet bouquet is one of the most easily recognizable in Burgundy. With aging it tends towards spiced ripe fruits and truffle, underbrush and animal notes. Rich and complex, it is silky and lacy on the one hand, and solid and structured on the other.
The slope faces east at altitudes of 250-300 meters with only a shallow covering of soil overlying the parent rock, but fissures in the hard Jurassic limestone allow the roots to seek dig deep into the complex sub-soil. Gravel in the valley bottom ensures good drainage.
Red wines exclusively - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
152.23 ha (including 56.23 ha premier cru)
With a personality that is both powerful and delicate, the wines of Chambolle call for sophisticated cuisine. Feathered game in sauce, roasted lamb or a free-range capon. Roast veal's subtle texture would work too. Cheeses should be mild : Brillat-Savarin, Reblochon, Cîteaux, Vacherin, Brie de Meaux or Chaource.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Aux Beaux Bruns
Derrière la Grange
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Feusselottes (ou « Les Feusselotes »)
Les Hauts Doix
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard known as a lieu-dit:
Derrière le Four
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Bas Doix
Les Clos de l'Orme
Les Creux Baissants
Les Mal Carrées
Les Pas de Chat